What To Expect When Refinishing Hardwood Floors

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Giving your hardwood floors a facelift has the power to change the entire appearance of your home.

The beauty about hardwood floors is with a few steps and procedures, your damaged and worn-out hardwood flooring can make a comeback.

All you have to do is refinish it.

Before embarking on this project, there are certain circumstances that you should envision, such as knowing what to expect when refinishing hardwood floors.

You should expect hardwood floor refinishing can take 10 to 12 days and get messy, especially with the sanding process.

Read on as we give a more in-depth discussion on what you should expect when refinishing hardwood floors.

What to Expect When Refinishing Hardwood Floors

The impact that refinishing hardwood floors can have in your home is simply incredible. Not only do you get a fresh and smooth floor, you even can change the color of your floor. 

The act of refinishing hardwood floors is not as easy as it is presented on the internet. Below are certain things you should expect:

1. Refinishing Hardwood Floors Yourself Might be a Bit Difficult

A little search on the internet on “how to refinish hardwood floors” will provide you with so many tips and guidelines.

These pages make hardwood floor refinishing an easy task that requires just some basic tools.

Trust us, that’s not always the case. For instance, the process of using a drum sander to sand your floor might be more complicated than you think.

Staining your hardwood floor might sound like a straightforward process once you’ve got your brush or roller.

But sometimes, no matter how gently your strokes are, you’re still left with lap marks on the hardwood floors.

You might wonder what lap marks are, right? When staining your hardwood floors, lap marks happen due to differences in sheen and color that occur when dry and wet layers overlap.

Dealing with lap marks is also another set of the tedious process you might not just be looking forward to!

Read Also: How to Clean Drywall Dust off Wood Floors

2. Refinishing Hardwood Yourself Might Cost More

You hear the benefits of DIY projects all over the internet – it is cost-effective. But is that really the case?

While refinishing the floors yourself seems like a cost-wise decision, we recommend that you evaluate the difference between hiring professionals and doing it yourself.

Sometimes you might discover that there isn’t much difference in cost, so why not save yourself the hassles and call-in the services of professionals?

We recommend that you refinish your hardwood floors yourself if only you’ve some time in your hands and the passion for embarking on this particular project.

3. Refinishing Hardwood Floors Can get Really Messy and Noisy

From clearing the house of all furniture to sanding the floor and applying the finish, you discover that you’ve got yourself a very noisy and messy house before the project is done.

Particularly, if you’re quite sensitive to noise, you may want to vacate the house when the whole sanding process is ongoing.

Another thing to expect is the whole house being covered in sand dust! You will definitely have some cleaning to do after this particular project.

Although most professionals use a ‘dustless machine’ to sand the floors, this is just to minimize the amount of dust generated in the process.

4. Refinishing Floors Can Constitute a Health Hazard

Inhaling sandpaper dust is dangerous! It can block your nostrils, cause irritation, and even breathing problems, especially if you’re asthmatic.

Studies carried out by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) show that there is a high increase in nasal cancer among woodworkers in Europe.

This study also linked wood dust in workplaces to asthma, bronchitis, lung, sinus, throat irritation, shortness of breath, and skin problems and irritation such as sneezing, skin flushing, itching, and runny nose.

5. Refinishing Floors Can Constitute a Fire Hazard

Since the refinishing process involves sanding, then you should know, dust particles are highly flammable!

As a thumb rule, most substances with dust particles like flour, sawdust, etc., are highly flammable when they have access to oxygen.

When one dust particle burns, it lights a nearby grain like a chain reaction until it finally results in an explosion.

An incident in Allenton published by the Mcall recounts an unfortunate incident where a house caught fire when the floor was being sanded during a hardwood floor refinishing project.

6. Refinishing Floors Can Take Days to Weeks

Most often than not, the internet makes it look like you can refinish your floors over the course of the weekend; well, this is a big misconception!

Certain factors play a major role in how long the refinishing process will take – like the size of the floor, the type of finish used, and the humidity level.

It’s always best to add more 3-4 days extra to the number of days the contractor gave you.

If you don’t want to feel the cumbersome nature of the floor refinishing process, schedule the renovation before you go on vacation.

For instance, it takes 24 hours to sand 1.000 square feet.  So, if you have 2,500-3000 square ft, that would take 3 days. 

These might be longer if you want to remove carpet, vinyl, or laminate tiles installed on top of your wood floor.

It takes 2-5 days for the stain and coats to be applied and dried. In humid weather conditions, it could take an extra day or two for drying.

Even after the finish has dried, you should wait for like 4 more days before you move furniture back into the house.

Please bear in mind that it takes most sealants about 30 days to fully cure – within this period, you need to be excessively careful not to scratch the floor.

Read Also: How To Deodorize Subfloor

7. You Can’t Stay Home During the Refinishing Process

Just to bolster other points that have been outlined before – you can’t hang around your home during the refinishing process. 

Not only is the sanding process really noisy, but once the contractor starts applying the finish/sealant, you can’t even afford to stay in the house!

Even with masks, the fumes from polyurethane are really strong and potent.

So as mentioned earlier, you need to make plans to vacate your house immediately after you schedule a refinishing project.

You cannot walk on the finish while it’s wet, even if you can withstand the sanding noise.

8. The Stench from The Polyurethane Coating Is Unbearable

This is why an oil-polyurethane finish is not recommended. After the application, the house will stink for days and days after they are finished and will be straight-out inhabitable for about 5 days.

The fumes and gases from the oil-based finish are dangerous and shouldn’t be inhaled under any circumstances!

Even with windows opened, the house will still reek of chemicals after weeks.

The internet might tell you that turning the heat up speeds up the drying process without giving you the downside.

Once the heat is turned up to a certain degree, it becomes almost impossible for you to step foot inside the house. So yes, everything has to be at a standstill until the floors are completely dried.

What You Should Know Before Refinishing Floors

What To Expect When Refinishing Hardwood Floors

We have extensively discussed what to expect when and after refinishing hardwood floors.

However, before making a move to refinish your hardwood floors, there are certain factors you should put in place before making the big move.

 These factors are discussed extensively below:

1. Choose Your Contractor Carefully

Trust us; you don’t want interns or apprentices handling your refinishing project. You need to get a highly recommended contractor with proven years of service.

Sanding, an essential aspect of the floor refinishing process, can easily result in a big misfortune if handled by a newbie.

The industrial-grade drum can remove too much material with the wrong move, thus creating an uneven surface that requires more sanding.

Too many of these types of mistakes will end up weakening the floor.

2. Ask Whether You Need a Full Refinishing

Sometimes you don’t need a full refinishing, especially if your floor is just slightly damaged.

Refinishing is only necessary when the floors have deep gouges and the finish has been completely worn through.

Sometimes, you just need a partial refinishing and not a full one.

The floor can be screened (a process of lightly sanding the existing finish) then a new polyurethane finish can be applied right over the top.

This is sometimes called a “screen and poly” job or sometimes a “maintenance coat.” This partial refinishing can actually save you about 50% off the cost of full refinishing.

3. Think About Color

The right wood color will give your house the ambiance you wish to achieve.

For the partial refinishing process discussed above, the color of your hardwood floors might not be affected. But if you’re going for full refinishing, the stain will be removed during the process.

This means that your floor will be a much lighter color after the job is done.

You will thus need to choose a new color. The good news is that there is a wide array of colors to choose from, ranging from grey, white, and chocolate brown.

Read Also: Can I Stay in My House While Floors Are Refinished?

4. Make Plans to Move Out

This was discussed extensively above. You can’t be in the same house when the refinishing process is ongoing.

As mentioned earlier, it is best you schedule your refinishing project when you’re about to go on a vacation.

That way, you’re sure of getting a new, fully refurbished house when you’re back!

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Do You Have to Stay Off Hardwood Floors After Refinishing?

It takes 2-5 days for the stain and coats to be applied and dried. In humid weather conditions, it could take an extra day or two for drying. It is recommended that you stay off the hardwood floor for at least 48 hours after refinishing.

In the next two days or so, make sure you don’t walk on the newly refurbished floor.

You don’t want to make any dent before the polyurethane fully cures.

What Are the Steps in Refinishing a Hardwood Floor?

First, you clear the room, rough sand the floor, clean up all sandpaper dust, apply the wood stain before applying the finish to seal the wood floor.

How Long Does It Take to Refinish a Hardwood Floor?

Depending on the scope of the work, it will take roughly 2 weeks to refinish hardwood floors,

Does Refinishing Hardwood Floors Make a Mess?

Yes, it does. From clearing the house of all furniture to sanding the floor and applying the finish, you discover that you’ve yourself a very noisy and messy house before the project is done.

And of course, no matter how you try, you’ll have sand dust littered everywhere.


We hope this lengthy article on what to expect when refinishing hardwood floors will actually go a long way in preparing you for this project.

With the right amount of preparation, refinishing hardwood floors can be an easy and even enjoyable process.

Read Also: How To Get Rid Of Scuff Marks On Hardwood Floors